Red Deer Cave People

A new species has recently been discovered in China.  The species is human, and is possibly a new trail in the long evolutionary line from the neanderthals to modern existence.  They have been called the “Red Deer Cave People” because their bones were found in caves along with the bones of many red deer, their obvious favorite meal.  The Red Deer Cave People are the most recent human remains uncovered (dating from 14,300 to 11,500 years ago) that do not closely resemble the structures of modern human beings.  Other skeletons dating back to the same period look more like they do today.  This suggests that the Red Deer Cave People lived in complete isolation, did not intermarry, and evolved on a slightly different line.  Many of the features are the same as modern humans, except that they have a different, larger jaw structure, larger molars, more prominent brows, thick skulls, flat faces and broad noses. 

The bones were discovered at the Longlin Cave in Guangxi province in 1979 and Maludong (Red Deer Cave) in Yunnan province in 1989.   The bones found in the Longlin cave were actually discovered in 1979, but were left uninterrupted and unstudied in a case in the basement of the Yunnan Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology.  A researcher at the Institute, Ji Xueping, found the bones in 2009 and worked closely with another researcher to examine them.  The other bones found in Maludong were discovered in 1989, put away, and studied in 2008. 

The researcher who worked with Xueping was Darren Curnoe of the University of New South Wales in Australia.  He has been credited for theorizing that the remains represent a new species of human being, with many similarities and importantly, several distinct differences from modern humans.  Curnoe believes that the cave people represent a new evolutionary line because their skulls are different than both modern humans and human skulls found in Africa dating back 150,000 years.  Scientists also know that humans with a modern skull structure existed during the same time period – their remains were found just south of these caves. 

Curnoe posited another interesting explanation for the varied structure of the Red Deer Cave people.  He stated “Alternatively, they might represent a very early and previously unknown migration of modern humans out of Africa, a population who may not have contributed genetically to living people.”   Essentially, these bones belonged to a group of people who were more like a tributary off of a large river.  If the large river represents the evolutionary line, the Red Deer Cave people broke off, did their own thing for a little while, and then died at the end of the ice age.  It may be possible that they survived the ice age in isolation and when the ice age was over, had to compete with neighboring villages for the new crops.  This was the dawn of agriculture as well, and maybe they didn’t assimilate like other communities, which caused their extinction.  It will be difficult to explain why they branched off the evolutionary line and did not thrive after the ice age.  Scientists will provide many theories, to be sure, without being able to come to a definite conclusion.  However, it is interesting to see that there was possibly a variant of the human species that existed at the same time as modern humans.